April 27, 2013

"O-Aki" by Katsuko Tokimori

The Poet as a Girl of Thirteen

Genroku Era, 1700 or so,
By the Kiyomizu Kannon Hall,
I watched the revelers and wrote
Syllables seventeen-- 

Perilous indeed 
    for befuddled feet
       these petals on the well curb 

And tied the paper on a dangling branch
Of the well-side guardian sakura tree.

Shown the poem, the Abbot rejoiced.
"The daughter of a sweets-shop keeper,
Her penname is Aki, it seems,  
And her age a fledgling thirteen."

“All Edo” was in love with me,
Though how they all knew isn’t clear,
But Japan has always been a village,
And villagers know everything.

"Her grandfather was a disciple 
Of the deathless Basho," the Abbot said.

The well by the tree's kept covered now
To keep off careless death, 
But still the stone is where it stood,
As the watchful cherry's leaves drip sleep.